Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
(Formerly referred to as ESEA or No Child Left Behind)

 2012 Federal Accountability Standards & State Academic Accreditation Standards

In October 2012, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) announced school and division accountability determinations under the Commonwealth’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver, awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to 33 states. The waiver, as described below, exchanges sanctions under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind) for new school improvement benchmarks and supports.

Under Virginia’s differentiated accountability system, new benchmarks, called Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs), have been set for each student reporting group with the goal of reducing the gap between the lowest and highest performing schools statewide by 50 percent over the next six years. Table 1 presents SOL pass rates in mathematics and reading for all schools in each of the student subgroups and indicates whether the pass rate met the AMO for each reporting group.

17 APS schools met the new federal benchmarks in reading and mathematics for all reporting groups: Abingdon, Arlington Science Focus, Arlington Traditional, Ashlawn, Barcroft, Claremont Immersion, Glebe, Henry, Jamestown, Long Branch, McKinley, Nottingham, Oakridge, and Taylor Elementary Schools; Swanson and Williamsburg Middle Schools; and Yorktown High School. In addition, all but one APS school met the federal benchmarks in mathematics that are based on new more rigorous standards, first assessed in 2011-12.

Virginia also announced that 108 Title I schools will receive focused school improvement support under the state’s flexibility waiver, including three Arlington Public Schools: Barrett, Campbell, and Drew Model Elementary Schools. In addition, 3 Title I and 7 non-Title I schools did not meet all AMOs. The 3 additional Title I schools will work with the state on school improvement and the remaining schools will submit APS school management plans.

Federal Annual Measurable Objectives

VDOE has established new annual benchmarks for raising achievement in the Commonwealth’s lowest-performing schools. The new annual objectives in reading and mathematics replace the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets that schools were previously required to meet under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Under Virginia’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver, schools must meet new Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) in reading and math for each reporting group, benchmarks set with the goal of reducing by half the proficiency gaps in reading and math between the lowest and highest performing schools in the state— overall and for each reporting group over the next six years. These reporting groups continue to include race/ethnicity: Asian, Black, Hispanic and White; and students receiving special services: students with disabilities, limited English proficient, and economically disadvantaged. The state is also placing a special emphasis on those student groups that have historically had difficulty meeting the Commonwealth’s achievement standards, referring to these student groups as Proficiency Gap Groups.

State Accreditation

In addition to federal accountability standards, Virginia continues to hold schools accountable for their performance on the state SOL assessments in all content areas. Elementary and middle schools must meet academic achievement standards in four core subject areas—English (reading and writing), mathematics, science, and history/social science―to be fully accredited (Table 2). Virginia is strengthening standards in all content areas, with new college- and career-ready assessments introduced in history/social science in 2011, mathematics and 2012, and English and science in 2013.

On September 26, VDOE announced that all Arlington Public Schools had met these academic standards, based on results from the 2011-12 SOL assessments.

In addition, high schools must meet a graduation standard, the Graduation and Completion Index (GCI), first introduced in 2011, to be fully accredited. Wakefield High School has improved from accreditation with warning in 2011, based on 77 GCI points, to provisional accreditation in 2012 with 83 GCI points. The Graduation and Completion Index (GCI) awards full credit for students who earn a Board-recognized diploma and partial credit for students who earn GEDs, certificates of completion, or who are still enrolled and expected to return for a fifth year of high school. High schools must achieve a GCI of at least 85 points for full accreditation.

Also, Arlington Public Schools successfully applied to VDOE for recognition of Arlington Mill as a high school beginning in 2012-13 and, in November 2012, received approval from the State Board for alternative accreditation standards at Arlington Mill to recognize the flexible and creative alternative programs it provides to students who struggle to graduate in a traditional high school setting, especially students who enter Arlington Public Schools after Grade 9 with limited English proficiency and few high school credits. As a new high school, Arlington Mill automatically received conditional accreditation in its first year and will be eligible for full accreditation status based on achievement and graduation data from the 2012-13 school year.

ESEA Flexibility Waivers

Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright announced on June 29, 2012 that, as a result of the U.S. Department of Education’s approval of Virginia’s Board of Education’s application for waivers from certain provisions of ESEA, Virginia schools and school divisions will no longer have to meet arbitrary and unrealistic benchmarks in reading and mathematics or the federal law’s mandate that all students – regardless of circumstance – achieve grade-level proficiency by 2014.

States receiving waivers also were required to revamp teacher evaluation systems, adopt college- and career-ready standards and assessments, and design differentiated accountability systems that focus on their lowest-performing Title I schools, in return for relief from former ESEA sanctions that included providing school choice (transfers) to students attending schools in improvement. Title I is the federal program that provides funding to support academic achievement in schools with higher percentages of students from lower-income families (35 percent or more).

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will continue to report – as it has since 1999 under the Standards of Learning (SOL) program – annual school accreditation ratings in September based on overall achievement in English, mathematics, science and history and high school graduation and completion.

Virginia schools and school divisions, however, will no longer receive annual “Adequate Yearly Progress” or AYP ratings. Under the approved waiver, information on schools meeting and not meeting the new, annual federal benchmarks for narrowing proficiency gaps will be reported separately in August. VDOE will also report on schools in need of additional supports, identified as “priority” and “focus” schools, and recognize high-performing Title I schools as “reward” schools.

Thirty-six Priority Schools will be identified across the commonwealth based on overall student achievement, including graduation rates in the case of high schools.

Seventy-two Focus Schools will be identified across the commonwealth based on the academic achievement of students in three “proficiency gap groups”, which are comprised of students who have historically had difficulty meeting the commonwealth’s achievement standards:

  • Gap Group 1 – Students with disabilities, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students, regardless of race and ethnicity
  • Gap Group 2 – African-American students, not of Hispanic origin, including those also counted in Proficiency Gap Group 1
  • Gap Group 3 – Hispanic students, of one or more races, including those also counted in Proficiency Gap Group 1

Both Priority and Focus Schools will be required to implement state-approved and monitored school-improvement initiatives. However, all schools, whether currently operating under school improvement sanctions or identified as a Priority/Focus School in the coming year, will be released from certain existing NCLB sanctions, such as providing Public School Choice (transfers) and Supplemental Educational Services (SES).

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